Iran gives medals to generals who detained U.S. sailors
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, on Sunday awarded Fath medals to five commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps naval forces for the detention of 10 American sailors who trespassed into Iranian waters, according the official state news agency Press TV.
Two U.S. Navy crafts carrying 10 sailors reached three miles into the waters surrounding Iran's Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf on January 12 because of mechanical problems.
The boats had drifted off course, but one was also suffering engine trouble, making it impossible for the Americans to back off rapidly and return to international waters when armed Iranian naval boats approached them.
Iran said the Republic Guards detained the U.S. service members and questioned them about whether they were on an intelligence mission.
But an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps spokesman said afterward that the boats strayed into Iranian waters by accident. The sailors were later released to the American naval fleet in the Persian Gulf.
"The evidence suggests that they unintentionally entered the Iranian waters because of the failure of their navigational system," spokesman Ramazan Sharif said.
The Fath (Victory) medal is among the highest honors that Iran's supreme leader can bestow on a military leader. It is rarely awarded.